Monday, December 31, 2007

Scenes From A Bowl Game

The other day, our family went to the Meineke Car Care Bowl at the Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. Normally, I don't have an interest in college football, but since Wake Forest was playing, and both my sister and brother-in-law went there, it was a no-brainer to go.

The game was great: Wake Forest were down 10-0 at halftime, but came back to win 24-10. We had great seats in the end zone, and were lucky that Wake scored a couple of times right in front of us. The only downfall were the assholes sitting a few rows in front of us who wouldn't sit down, and nearly started a fight with the people sitting right behind them.
It was a fun game to see. The bowl game atmosphere was electric - even though the stadium was only 2/3 sold, it sounded much louder than that.

While I root for Wake Forest, I'm not a die-hard fan like John, my brother-in-law. He lives and dies with every up and down that Wake Forest sports has, particularly basketball and football. Going to this bowl game would either mean that John would have a good day or a bad day. I carefully watched John as the game went on and documented his emotions. With every score, John's emotions and body language changed drastically. Here, is a photo essay I took of John reacting to the game:
1. Alarmed (Wake Losing, 7-0)
2. Surrender (Wake Losing, 10-0)3. Hope (Wake Losing, But Coming Back, 10-7)
4. Confidence (Wake Takes The Lead, 14-10)
5. Elation (Wake Extends Lead, 17-10)
When Wake was losing at halftime, John was silent, confused, and absolutely stunned. It was almost as if he couldn't speak any more. But as soon as they started to come back and were winning, John was talking again, and predicting a 20-10 victory.

I'm happy for John that they won. I'm happy for Erin that they won, and John was happy. I'm just happy it was a good game. Heather was just happy to have some nachos.

Mmmm...nachos.

The (Man-made) River Wild

I am not what you would call "an outdoorsman." I am not afraid of sunlight or fresh air, but I'd prefer to sit at home and nap than go for a hike. Even the mere idea of camping makes me retreat to my couch. (I mean, how can I live without tivo, xbox, and my bathroom?) But something came over me last week, and it came as quite a surprise to Heather when I suggested that we should do something outdoors-y.

Last year, when I was at my dad's house (in South Carolina) for Christmas, I had read about the opening of the US National Whitewater Center just outside of Charlotte. It's a training facility for US Olympic kayakers (and hopefulls), but it's open to the public and has plenty beyond kayaking for novices to do. According to wikipedia, "The Center's primary feature is the world's largest and most complex recirculating artificial whitewater river." When it opened last year, it was a big to-do in Charlotte, and it sounded impressive.

So this year, when I got down to my dad's, for some reason, I was reminded of the Whitewater Center, and thought, "That might be kind of fun." Wait, what? An outdoor activity, fun? That's not me thinking, is it? Apparently, it was. I felt bold, different, unafraid of tackling river rapids in a man-made facility. Instead of thinking beyond that, I decided to book a whitewater rafting trip at the Whitewater Center for Heather and I.

The weather was anything but promising. The temperature was barely in the low 50's that day, so the water was going to be freezing, and at any moment, it was about to begin raining. Because it's winter, we were hooked up with wetsuits, some sort of water shoes, and waterproof jackets to seal around our arms and necks.

After a safety orientation, we were thrown into life jackets and helmets and boarded the rafts. At this point, it started raining. We were placed in the raft with four other people, plus a guide. After learning some basic commands from the guide, we were off.

For the first two runs, we went down a long, bumpy "river," which is supposed to be the easier path to take. In the picture below, it is the loop that goes around the bottom of the picture, around the trees.
As we were going around the loop the first time, we were thrown around at one specific spot, and Heather thought I was about to be tossed from the boat, so she grabbed me. At the same time, I thought she was going to be tossed from the boat, so I grabbed her. Heather held on to both me and her paddle, but I let go of both Heather and my paddle. Luckily, we stayed in the raft, but when I saw my paddle floating down the river, I felt like an idiot. The guide assured me it happens all the time, and I felt better when I saw another boat lose two of their paddles.

When you finish your run, you're quite a bit below where you started, so you paddle over to a long conveyor belt and ride up it, much as you would a log flume, and get dropped off at the starting point to begin your next run. At that point, we stopped to get another paddle and went for our second run.
(I'm in the blue helmet. Heather is across from me, her helmet looks like its covering her eyes)

After two runs on the longer loop, they decided to take us on the much harder rapids, which they said has class 3 and 4 rapids. I had watched a few kayakers on this section earlier, and it was much more harrowing than what we had just been on.
It was clear from the very first moment on these new rapids that we were going to get thrown around a lot more. I was convinced that I'd go flying, but somehow, I stayed in. Any time we were going over the bigger rapids, our guide would yell, "Weeee!"
(Heather is in the front row and I'm right behind her)

It was incredible when you hit some of these bigger rapids and the water just came pouring into our boat. You couldn't see a thing in front of you, and had to just hope that you weren't going to tip over. It really was like going down a roller coaster, but without a seatbelt. And sometimes, you were going down backwards. Or sideways.

After two passes on the tougher rapids, we went back to the easier loop we started on and our guide had us "surf" the rapids: we paddled in from the side of the eddy and straight into the rapid, and our boat sort of "surfed" into the rapid.

After "surfing" on a few rapids, we took one final pass on the tougher rapids.
Our two hours of rafting felt like they took ten minutes. It was an awesome experience, an absolute blast. I was shocked that the cold water and weather didn't bug me - the wetsuits were perfect. The only bummer was that we weren't going again right away.
The Whitewater Center is really impressive. Besides the whitewater rafting and kayaking, they also have climbing walls, ropes courses up in the trees, and a bike path to ride around. It seems like it's in the middle of nowhere, but I guess if you're building a massive man-made river, you kind of have to build it in the middle of nowhere. We were going to a zip line down 100 feet, but because of the rain and bad conditions, it got canceled. Next time we're visiting my dad, both Heather and I agreed that we're going to do another rafting trip. I can't wait!

Maybe I am an outdoorsman after all.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas To All...

Merry Christmas friends and family!

To share in the good cheer, I wanted to share a legendary Christmas story from my family, back from the late-60's. My dad was drafted and went to Vietnam, and made one Christmas pretty memorable for everyone.

This is from my Aunt Ellen:
"Your dad had spent the last year in Viet Nam.  He came home
in July, and
his only requests were to have Budweiser and Christmas.
The tree was
up, wrapped presents under the tree, and the Bud was on ice.
All was
well, and we were all totally ecstatic to have him home safe.

But he still had to serve, and for the rest of his tour of duty,
he had to go to California.
Safe place, but so far away from New
Jersey. Christmas was coming up, and my Mom,
and all of us,
were missing Jerry terribly. He was not going to be able to
get home for
Christmas and Mom, especially, was sad about that.

A day or two before Christmas,
Jerry called Janice,
his girlfriend (ED NOTE: my mom), and told her he was able to come

home for a few days. Janice called me and we kept it
secret from everyone else.


After a late evening celebration of Christmas on Christmas Eve,
everyone went to bed,
except me. (I did tell my Dad so he wouldn't
think I disappeared in the night.)
Janice picked me up to go to
the airport, way the heck to some airport in New York. His flight
was
coming in about three am. We sat giggling in the airport, anticipating
how surprised
everyone would be. When he arrived, we were tired but
psyched. We arrived back in
Bogota, NJ, at about six in the
morning.


We tiptoed in, and then Jerry yelled at the top of his lungs,
"Hey, where is everybody??"

With that, I heard my Mom's voice say, "Is that Jerry??????" and I
heard Edward yell,
"Yippee!!!" and the entire family tumbled down
from the upstairs rooms and jumped
all over Jerry.

My favorite Christmas, ever.

I can still hear mom's voice saying "Is that Jerry???" What a day!"
It's one of my favorite family Christmas stories. Sadly, I don't have any video of his Christmas surprise, but I do have some old film of his initial July return to the States from his tour of duty in Vietnam. (Cast note: My mom is the one in the white dress and black bow, my dad is in uniform, aunts and uncles are all around, and there's no audio) Enjoy:



Merry Christmas! I hope someone out there has as great a story as that one after today.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Not In Kansas (Or Los Angeles) Anymore

I'm sitting in a bright pink library, sitting next to a woman in a Dixie flag jacket whose phone keeps ringing "Sweet Child O' Mine" and is getting flustered by the "computers and electronics and stuff." There are a pair of horses in the back, painting pictures. On the drive over, we saw a couple of guys hanging outside of their garage, staring at the engine on their Camaro (and I believe one person was wearing Zubas).

That's right, I'm in Florida.

Heather and I are here, visitng her grandparents for the holidays. Her mom and brother Mark are here, and the rest of her family is coming down in the next few days.

I'll be without email for the next few days (HOW WILL I SURVIVE???), but can always come here to the local public library to sign up to use these public computers. The kid next to me is playing some dragon slaying game. That looks like a lot more fun than blogging.

Oh, and I'm now obsessed with getting a crossword puzzle book. I finished on in the back of the US Airways magazine on our flight yesterday, and I'm dying to do more. Weird, right?

Okay, that was a whole lot of randomness. Really, what I wanted to say was, if you're trying to email me over the next few days, I might not get to it for a while. I may be too busy with my corsswords.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

My New Favorite Sports Jersey

This was on deadspin today - if you go to this site you can type in your name and figure out your name if you played on Brazil's soccer team. Mine would be:

I guess it's pronounced "Mac-Cah." Not a bad ring to it. What's your name?

(And the 23 is in honor of new LA resident, Don Mattingly.)

Power Out



Blackouts happen in our neighborhood whenever it A) gets too hot outside and everyone's running tons of air conditioning (which happened in September during our heat wave) or B) whenever it rains steadily and fairly heavily. Of course, for a day-and-a-half, it rained steadily, and I guess the electricity in my neighborhood decided to take a break.

Last night, I hopped in the shower around 8. I was about to lather up when suddenly everything went black. Luckily, after our last blackout, Heather and I prepared for another by setting up candles and flashlights around the apartment. Of course, I had to find them while dripping wet.

Luckily, I left our Menorah out, so I lit the Hanukkah candles. Surprisingly, it was almost brighter than all our other candles combined. Next Hanukkah, I will add a personal prayer when lighting the candles to say "Thanks for keeping my apartment lit during times of blackout."

Heather and I were ready for a night without power. Heather worked in front of the fireplace, I watched a DVD with the remaining power on my laptop, and the cat did whatever it is she does.

The power nearly came back at one point, but it quickly shut itself off again. We could hear the crews working throughout the night. I woke up early this morning, our lights finally on. Based on my blinking alarm clock, I assume that we got power at about 4:45 in the morning.

This was much more tolerable than when we lost power during the Labor Day Weekend heatwave when tried to sleep without AC in 105 degree heat, sweating, hoping and praying, that either the heat would end immediately or that our power would miraculously turn on and stay on for more than 4 hours at a time.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

What's This Dusty Thing In The Corner? (Updated With New Picture Goodness)

That's right, it's my blog. I totally forgot about it - it was buried under that pile of laundry in the corner.

Okay, so I've been ignoring this thing for the last month. I really don't have any good reason other than I was suffering from a severe case of "laziness."

So to get back into the blogging spirit, here's a few little things that amused me recently:
  • Heather's theater company had their Christmas party last night, and she asked me to pick up some chicken from Ralph's. I went to the counter to get some, and saw the price tag, "8 pieces for $5.99." The woman working the counter came over to help and I asked for "12 pieces of chicken." She stared at me, dumbfounded, and mumbled, "That's more than 8." I stared back at her, myself now dumbfounded as well, and noted, "Yes it is." Eventually, after we stared at each other awkwardly for a while, she got me 12 pieces of chicken. It apparently was a major challenge, but she overcame it.
  • The night got even better later on, when I walked into the theater party and saw an elderly man I totally recognized, but couldn't quite place the face with a name. I knew he was a character actor of some sort, but couldn't quite figure out what he was from. After a few moments, I realized, it's UNCLE LEO...from SEINFELD! It took a lot for me not to yell out, "UNCLE LEO!" in front of the entire party. I will forever remember this as the "Christmas of Uncle Leo." UPDATE: Here's the picture he took with Heather:
  • The rain in LA has me feeling like its a snow day. We had our fake fireplace on today, Christmas tree lit up, and I'm sitting in comfy clothes, relaxing, trying to recover from a cold. It certainly is "winter" in LA.
  • Oh yeah, and here's our Christmas set-up this year...
That's all for now. I promise to blog again sooner than another month.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Double Talk

Writers on strike want a piece of the internet pie that they're due. Network Executives from Big Media have been claiming they make no money on the internet. Guess which side isn't being honest:

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Nine Cover Songs From My Itunes

The last few days have been re-write day at work, days I enjoy. Basically, I take the script for a show, and just work on the voice-over, trying to come up with another way to make "unpredictable rip currents" more dangerous and exciting than we have the previous episodes.

When I sit down to hack at it, I'll throw on my headphones and just zone out, read the thesaurus, try writing out ideas, then re-write it so it's good enough for the show. With my iTunes on shuffle, I tend to ignore the rest of the world. Half the time, I'm not even aware of what's playing.

The other day, though, the music caught my attention: it was catchy, familiar, but not quite right. That's when I realized it was a cover of Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone" performed by Ted Leo. It's actually a great version of the song, and it goes into a cover of the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs "Maps" in the midst of it. Seriously...

Since U Been Gone/Maps - Ted Leo


It got me thinking about what other great, not-so-obvious covers I have on my iTunes, and I figured I'd share some, because hey, who doesn't like music, right?

Keeping with the "contemporary hit covered by indie-artist" angle, here's a cover of Christina Aguilera "Beautiful" by Clem Snide, one of my favorite bands. I saw them do this live at the Troubadour a few years ago, and it absolutely blew me away. I was pretty pumped when they released this as a single...

Beautiful - Clem Snide


Here's a weird one: David Byrne covering Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance With Somebody." I heard that back in 2005, Byrne, with help from the USC Marching Band, played a cover of Beyonce's "Crazy in Love." That may actually be weirder than this:

I Wanna Dance With Somebody - David Byrne


This one came up on Stereogum a few weeks ago: the Foo Fighers doing a cover of Arcade Fire's "Keep the Car Running." Dave Grohl says that he listens to it every morning when he wakes up. I understand why. It's kind of a great song to get you up and moving in the AM:

Keep the Car Running - Foo Fighters


The Faces are one of the more underrated rock bands of all time. When I mention that Rod Stewart was the singer, most people frown, but all they know is that he sucks now. Just listen to him rip through the chorus of the cover of McCartney's "Maybe I'm Amazed," and you'll know how good he can be. And by the way, I think I like this version better than Paul's original, and that's saying a lot for a Beatles freak like me:

Maybe I'm Amazed - The Faces


The White Stripes have done a ton of great covers, but I think my favorite of theirs is "Jolene," the classic by Dolly Parton:

Jolene - The White Stripes


Here's one that may be my favorite cover of all time: Radiohead covering Carly Simon's "Nobody Does It Better." Weird, right? But it's so fucking good. Thom Yorke called it "The sexiest song ever written." Who knew Radiohead were such Carly Simon fans?

Radiohead - Nobody Does It Better


My most treasured cover isn't really a true "cover." It's the Beatles working on "All Things Must Pass," but remember they never released it. The Beatles were working on the song during the "Let It Be" sessions. Of course, they broke up, George Harrison took his own song, and scored the first big solo hit of any of the Beatles.

Well, there's a version of "All Things Must Pass" on the Beatles Anthology albums, but it was just a George demo. This version is a version after the Beatles had worked on it a little bit. I read about this version years ago in Rolling Stone, when they mentioned it in an article. After much searching, I found it.

It's interesting to hear the Beatles performing the song as a whole, a bit bare and rough, along with harmonies, well before it was ever fleshed out. Kind of cool to hear what could have been if they kept working on the song.

All Things Must Pass - The Beatles


Anyone have their own favorite, weird covers in their iTunes?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

New Word of the Day

My new word of the day is "Blinger!"
It's much more fun to tell people to look at Heather's "Blinger!" than her ring finger.

I bet the usage of the word "Blinger!" becomes a huge phenomenon, and when it does, remember to credit me with the creation of it.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Eight Years In The Making

Years ago, when Heather and I first talked about marriage, she noted, "Whenever you propose, you won't surprise me. I'll know it's coming." That put a lot of pressure on me. I made a promise that I would figure out a way, I just couldn't figure it out for the longest time.

A few months ago, we began ring shopping. Finally, about a month ago, we picked out a ring and a diamond downtown at Rondels, a fantastic store in the Jewelery District downtown. We were both thrilled. I made the wise decision of kicking Heather out of the store as I discussed a time table with them. She was clueless as to when it would be ready.

For the next few weeks, Heather kept prodding, "Do you know how you're going to propose? When's the ring ready? It has to be ready by now? Maybe you can just show it to me before you propose because I'm so excited." I kept her at bay, telling her, "No, I don't know how I'm going to propose, and besides, I have plenty of time. The ring won't be ready until Thanksgiving." Hell, she even went snooping into a couple of my drawers hoping to find it.

Well aware of her excitement, I left the ring at the jewelery store until I was ready to propose. I had a plan in my head for months, but only truly settled on it a few weeks ago. When I ran it by a couple of people and I saw their reaction, I knew I had it right. I aimed to do it on Thursday, October 18th for a number of reasons:
  1. Heather knew the ring was coming. If I were doing a "BIG" proposal, she'd get suspicious at the first sign of something out of the ordinary.
  2. It's a Thursday. Most people get engaged on a weekend or a vacation. Not a Thursday.
  3. Heather has an acting class every Thursday night. She usually goes right from work to class, then gets home around 10pm. It's a busy day for her and it would give me plenty of time to get ready.
  4. Heather was going back home to NY on Saturday, and I know she couldn't wait for her friends to see the ring at Christmas time.
So, on Thursday morning, I went downtown to pick up the ring. I left work early in the afternoon to pick up all the last second bits and pieces I needed, as well as clean the apartment. I wasn't nervous about pulling it off, but was FREAKED OUT that Heather would skip her class and get home about 3 hours earlier than planned. Luckily, she went to class.

I cleared out our living room and on the floor, I made a "runway" of tea light candles on the ground. In between, I dropped a whole bunch of rose pedals. It lead to our dining room table, where I put a bouquet of flowers, our candle chandelier, a bottle of champagne, a few framed photos, and a photo book I made on iPhoto.

Here's how the apartment looked:
The table:
The view from behind the table to the front door:
I had everything ready by 8:30. I expected Heather home at 10 or 10:30. So, I paced and kept re-lighting and changing out tea lights. I wanted it to be absolutely perfect. At 9:30, an hour earlier than expected, I heard the jangling of Heather's keys as she unlocked the door. I rushed to the table and sat down, waiting for her to enter.

She opened the door. Her arms were full: she was carrying a backpack, a massive purse, a re-usable lunch bag, a water bottle, and a bag and soda from McDonald's. The door swung open and she stood there for what seemed like an eternity, but was probably only about 15-20 seconds. Clearly stunned, she looked at me and asked, "What's going on here?" I smiled, "Hi, come on in."

She walked into the room, almost punch drunk, and right away, she stepped on one of the tea lights. I yelled at her to stop and had to direct her towards me, much as someone working at the airport would direct a plane towards the gate. I grabbed the bags from her arms and put them aside.

"What do I do now?" she asked. I told her to take a seat and to look at the photo book I made for her. The book started with a brief introduction about our first eight years together. I took some my favorite photos of the two of us and put them throughout the book. Here's Heather reading the intro to the book:
At the very end of the book, I wrote a short paragraph:

"I hope you've enjoyed all these pictures from our first eight years together. From the first date at Mexicali, it's been a whirlwind. We've had a wonderful time together as "boyfriend and girlfriend," but, I think we're ready for the next step. So, I have a question for you..."

At that point, I got down on my knee in front of her, and I asked her, through my tears, to marry me. And as expected, she said, "Yes!"
It was such a great night, probably the best of my life. Heather admitted moments later, "You completely surprised me," which made me happy for so many reasons. We were both punch drunk for the entire night. I don't think Heather ever really got over the shock that hit her when she first walked into that door.

Heather and I are still giddy a couple of days later. We're still calling each other "fiance" and giggling like kids who've just gotten away with something. It's pretty awesome.

I just wanted to say thanks to everyone who helped along the way in making the proposal happen: to Erin and Evan for the recommendation to Rondels, to Patry for listening to me vent as I waited impatiently for the photo book to arrive, as well as stopping by and picking up a lighter at the very last second to light the tea lights, and to my sister, who listened to my plans and kept me calm as I pulled all of it together.

Now, the wedding planning begins...

Monday, October 08, 2007

The Yankees Are Alive!!!

I found a fitting video in honor of tonight's Yankees/Indians game: a promo from the late-70's from WPIX 11 for a Yankees/Indians game. There's some sweet music and awesome graphics.



Let's go Yankees!!!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

The Danger of Jager

Last night, we went to a game night with a number of friends from Heather's theater company. We held a game night about 4-5 months ago with the same group, and it was a great time. As that night ended, we all pledged to get together soon and have just as fun a time. But it was tough to get this group together again due to crazy schedules, bad timing, etc. Finally, we were able to get together last night for our long-awaited game night.

When we arrived at our friends' apartment, there was a couple who hadn't been at the previous game night. For the sake of this story, they will be renamed Jack and Jill. Heather knows Jack and Jill through the theater, but I had never met them before. They seemed nice enough, but were much more interested in doing Jagermeister shots than anything else. I had about 3 shots with them and was feeling it pretty quickly. I stopped and began nursing a beer so I could function and play games. I mean, we are at a game night. That is the purpose of being there.

But Jack and Jill wanted to continue doing Jager shots. At every opportunity, Jack would ask, "Jager?" And it seemed like Jill was more than willing to join him. A few other people had a shot or two, but for the most part, it was Jack and Jill doing the drinking. The new bottle of Jager they opened just two hours earlier was soon down to just a few drops.

We finally sat down to play the first game, a new game that Heather and I had only played once. As I tried to explain the directions to the rest of the party, Jill was yelling and carrying on about who-knows-what. No one could really hear the instructions, so we tried playing and explaining the game as we went along. But Jill made it impossible as she began wailing like a fog horn being run over by a big rig. She kept up with her guttural howling "UHHHHHH!" as long as she possibly could.

Since the new game was being ruined by her siren-like yelling, we decided to play a more simple game: celebrity, a charades-like game where you have to guess which famous person you're pretending to be. Jill went off to have a cigarette, and we were able to get the game off to a great start. Game night was back on track.

Jill came back into the room and plopped herself into the new, expensive massage chair. She was much more subdued than before and clearly had no intention of playing the game. Jack sat next to her silently, clearly wasted. The game went on, and we were having a blast. Someone looked over at Jill, who had more or less passed out in the chair: she looked half-dead. They asked Jack, "Is she okay." Despite the fact that her eyes had nearly rolled back into her head, he replied, "She's fine."

Our team was poised for a comeback and about to make a big move, when suddenly I heard someone groan the dreaded words, "Uh-oh!" I turned to see Jill sitting upright with a long, thick strand of drool dangling from her mouth. She had just puked on the new, expensive massage chair.

But she didn't make a move to the bathroom. She just sat there, stunned. Then, she opened her mouth and began puking. A lot. Onto the new, expensive massage chair, the white carpet, and her dress. I grabbed an empty chip bowl, passed it to someone so she didn't have to continuously vomit everywhere, and ran to the kitchen, out of harms way. Luckily, I was joined by two others who had weak stomachs and wanted to avoid the stink of vomit.

Jill never made it to the bathroom. She just held strong in the living room and kept puking. In the kitchen, we were all trying to figure out how to get them home. We were ready to call for a cab and chip in, but one of the guys at the party, Matt, who is a good friend of theirs and was sober, offered to drive them back home. As I cowered in the kitchen, Matt went up to Jack and said, "I think we should get going." Jack, despite the fact that his girlfriend was puking all over herself and the furniture, replied, "Nah, I think we're fine." Matt then kindly rephrased himself, "I think everyone would be much more comfortable if we took her home." Jack finally got the clue and they decided to leave. A few minutes after they left, Matt called to say they were home and safe, but that he now had to clean out the backseat of his car, as Jill christened that with vomit as well.

Game night was over. But we all hung out for another hour, trying to figure out what had just happened. Of course, as we talked about her puking, it lead to everyone telling legendary gross stories. Jill's night of Jager and puking on the new, expensive massage chair will be added to my repertoire of nasty, disgusting stories, and told to groups of friends, on a night like last night.

We're planning for another game night soon, but this time, Jack and Jill won't be invited.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Meat-Pocalypse IV: The Quest For Ribs

At work, the big excitement lately has been the grill that Dave got for our show. Dave and I have pretty much used it on a daily basis to grill all sorts of things for lunch, and to be honest, it's much more satisfying (and tasty) than eating out.

Once a week, for the last few weeks, we've grilled for our entire crew of about 15-18. We've dubbed these special, weekly occasions: The Meat-Pocalypse! (I've mentioned this once before, briefly, in a previous post.) For each, we have a main course of meat along with various side dishes. The first three Meat-Pocalpse menus were:
  • Chicken, Carne Asada, and Hot Links
  • Beer Soaked Brats
  • Fennel Crusted Pork Chops (Recipe from Top Chef 3, and I can't take credit for creating the marinade, just for grilling)
Well, the big plan for this week's 'Pocalpse was to do BBQ ribs, something I've made tons of times in a stove, slow-cook style, but never done on a grill before. For some variety, we added chicken to the menu as well. Between the ribs and the chicken, I bought nearly 20 pounds of meat!!

Before I actually purchased the ribs, a couple of people at work were skeptical. They gave me an out a number of times, but I refused. I was determined to make the ribs, come hell or high water.

Not only was there a little bit of doubt as to whether I could pull it off, but I was also working alone today. Usually, when we cook for the crew, Dave and I split the duties on the grill, but of course, today, he happened to get called in for jury duty.

I marinated the ribs and the chicken overnight. They smelled great. Outside, I had a two grill set-up. The large grill, affectionately known as "The Silver Bitch" would be for ribs only. The small grill, "Little Bitch," was for chicken. I loved the idea of working two grills at once.
I began cooking the ribs at 11:45am...
...and I began the first of two batches of chicken at around 12:30...
A little while later, about 20 pieces of chicken were done, perfectly juicy and delicious...
And shortly after that, the ribs were completely done, still tender and delicious.
Meat-Pocalypse IV turned out to be a major success...

Our crew brought in some side dishes, including home-made garlic mashed potatoes, spicy green beans, and macaroni salad.

Everyone seemed to enjoy the food a ton. By the time we were done with it, we were left with 3 small ribs, 3 pieces of chicken, and a few scoops of mashed potatoes. Very quickly, people from other shows came over and helped themselves to the last of it.

I called my dad to tell him how well it went (he gave me advice on how to grill them), and he asked me, "How long did it take?" And I told him, "1 1/2 hours." He asked, "So when do you work?" Good question. I'm still trying to figure out the answer.

As we finished up, I got an IM from Dave, still at jury duty, asking, "How did the ribs go?" With some prodding from the crew, we IM'd back that "It was awful, good thing I made a lot of chicken. Catastrophe." And another co-worker, Paul, photoshopped this photo, which we sent to Dave:
Sorry, Dave, we couldn't help it. We were kidding. It was great. We'll make ribs another day so you, too, can enjoy them.

I can't wait for next week's big day, a slight variety on the 'Pocalypse, where instead of one main course, we'll bring in a lot of different kinds of meat to try. It'll be our very first Meat-A-Palooza.

And in two weeks, we've planned for tri-tip. Man, I love work.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Presto...

...it's Magic! Springsteen is back!!!
I hope everyone back in Jersey took the day off, picked up the album, took a road trip to the shore, and started some bar fights...all while listening to the new album.

It's pretty damn good.

Whirlwind Weekend

It was quite a quick weekend in North Carolina, but it was spectacular. If you've never been to Chapel Hill before, it is a beautiful place. Lush greens, old-time southern homes, weather in the 70's, sweet tea, and people with silly accents. I've been lucky to have gone a few times before, but this weekend, it was spectacular.

The best part, of course, was watching my sister defend her dissertation in front of her peers. It's fascinating work to see. She was obviously enthusiastic, even mentioning, at one point, "And this is why I'm jazzed about science." Yup, that's right, she's "jazzed" about science. I guess in order to become a PHD, you have to be "jazzed" about what your studying, I guess. (I won't let her live that one down)

One small complaint about her defense: at the end of her presentation, she went through to acknowledge all those (with an accompanying slide show) who helped her/supported her throughout her years of work. It was incredibly emotional. Amazingly, she kept her emotions in check pretty well, but at times, would break down and her voice would suddenly crack, and she'd begin talking in a high, squeaky voice.

As it came time to thank me, she noted, "I want to thank my brother, Brian, who is everything a big brother should be." At this point, she was still composed. Completely unemotional, until she added, "And, I also want to thank him for bringing Heather into our family." The mere mention of Heather sent her over the edge. How could this be? How dare she not break down as she said my name!!! She claims, "I was holding it back and just let it out as I was thanking Heather." That's an excuse, if you ask me. (And no, Erin, I'm not letting you live this one down, either)

After she did her defense, we had to wait for about an hour and a half as a committee of people from her department continued to question her. Finally, she came out as Dr. Erin McCarthy Campbell. To say that we were proud of her would be an understatement. We celebrated that night into the wee hours, and I learned about all sorts of cell experiments that her colleagues are working on. I think I understand what they're studying...okay, maybe not. I ain't such a smart one. (On a side note, as we were partying, the head of Erin's lab, Bob, came up to me, got on his knees, and prayed to me like a God because he liked a show I worked on a couple of years ago. It was quite flattering and, of course, Heather happened to be in the bathroom and missed it).

Throughout the weekend, we went to some fantastic restaurants famous to the area (Mama Dip's, Crook's Corner) and had some amazing food (grits and shrimp are a new favorite), visited an amazing store for cooking junkies (A Southern Season), and drank our share of heavily sugared iced tea.

Hell, I even had a celebrity sighting. As we walked around the town on Thursday night, I spotted Ben Folds walking down the sidewalk. (He is from North Carolina). I am a huge fan and was tempted to stop him, but he was with his wife (I assume) and didn't feel like bugging them. Everyone was pissed that I didn't point him out. To that, I say, "Pay more attention!"

It was a great weekend to have as a family...even if my sister didn't cry when she mentioned my name. Congrats, Erin!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Mad Dash To Leave Town

Before I leave on trips, I like to make lists of things I need to do. It makes me feel better for some reason. Well, for the blog, I'll make a list of good & bad from the week...

THE GOOD
  • Leaving town tomorrow for NC to see my sister get her PHD
  • The Yankees clinched a playoff spot
  • Halo 3 is awesome and makes me smile
  • Meatpocalypse 3: grilling pork with Patry for our entire staff, and yes, it was delicious
  • The Giants beating the Redskins
  • The new Foo Fighters album is good
  • You can download Wes Anderson's short film "Hotel Chevalier" free on itunes
  • I got tickets to see Van Halen in LA, and I will rock out hard!
  • All my laundry is done
THE BAD
  • Car breaking down; being without car from Sunday until tonight
  • Dealership trying to overcharge me
  • Bringing car to other mechanic to get better deal
  • Our flight is at 8am tomorrow...at LAX.
  • No Halo 3 for a weekend
  • I am extremely gassy from beans from the Meatpocalypse today (Poor Heather)
  • I still have to pack
  • Did I mention the 8am flight...
Reports from North Carolina to come...if I have internet at the hotel.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Random Thoughts On a Sunday Afternoon

There's been a lot going on lately, so here's some random things, Larry King-style:
  • I've gone to Chinatown more in the last six months than I had in the first 8 1/2 years that I've lived in LA. It's actually kind of great. Heather can get cheap clothes that are funky, and I'm amused by all the rip-off toys and bootlegged DVD's. And Heather found a fantastic restaurant, Yang Chow, which reminds me a lot of east coast Chinese food.
  • The Yankees are making me happy. A Giants win over the Redskins today would make me really happy.
  • Last week, we went to the Magic Castle for the first time. If you live in LA and haven't been yet and get an invite, I highly recommend it. We got our invite from Rob, a fellow member of Heather's theater company who was performing with his group, The Unholy Three. We started at the WC Fields Bar to watch The Unholy Three, who put on a great show. You can wander around the castle, an impressive place, and catch little side shows at some of the bars that are scattered throughout. There's also three main stages, where you have to wait for shows, and each is a different size: Close Up Gallery, Parlour of Prestidigitation (medium sized), and the Palace of Mystery (larger). We got to see shows in both the Close-up Gallery and the Parlour, as well as watching some of the magicians putting on some shows around at the bars. There were some amazing tricks and great shows. Highly entertaining. Plus, I did get to meet the drummer of the Pixies, Dave Lovering, who is one of The Unholy Three.
  • We did a 70's themed double DVD feature last night: "Zodiac" and "Inside Deep Throat." "Zodiac" is a great film - highly, highly recommend it. I haven't seen Heather get that freaked out by a movie in a long time. Now, I want to begin my own personal investigation of the Zodiac. "Inside Deep Throat" was fascinating. Not my favorite doc of all time, but very entertaining. It was kind of perfect to watch after "Zodiac" had us wound up.
  • For the last week and a half at work, I've been grilling lunch every day. See, Patry got a new grill for our office and we wanted to try doing a few "meat days" where we'd grill our lunch instead of going out and eating really crappy. It was such a success that I haven't left the office for lunch in over a week (and that was because I had errands to run). Plus, we've had two "Meat-Pocalypse" days, where we grilled for our entire staff. Week one was chicken and carne asada. Week two were beer soaked brats. For week three, I've stepped up and I'm going to try to grill some ribs.
Okay, now, I have to get back to watching football. It's crunch time for the Giants.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Gorillas In the Midst (Of A Phil Collins Video)

This was on defamer yesterday. I watch and just giggle. I shall say no more:

To see the original, click here.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

When The 'Fro Grows

For years, I've been all about getting regular haircuts. Back in the day, I'd go every 3 weeks and get it cut really damn short. As of last year, I was still getting it cut every two months or so. And after those two months, it felt long.

Well, this year, I decided to experiment: what would my hair do if I grew it long? Besides my junior school mullet, I had never tried growing out my hair.

I got a haircut the first week of January this year. It grew and grew and grew. And it grew curlier and curlier and curlier. At times, it looks like I've gotten a perm. Other times, it just looks shaggy. I can pull it down below my lip. I can make it stretch into the air like Kramer. It's pretty amusing. I have been called everything from "hippie" to "Fabio." I resent both.

Initially, I wanted to try to go for a full year without getting a haircut. But today, I decided to get a trim. Until today, I've never gotten a haircut where the hairdresser asked, "Do you want me to cut an inch or half an inch?"

After cutting a half-inch, it doesn't look like I cut much. Heather noticed it right away when she saw it. She thinks there's "layers" to it. There are no layers. The guy just cut a half-inch.

I'm wondering how long I can go until my next haircut.

Slow Night, So Long

This has been the summer of concerts. It seems like everyone good is coming through town these days and I've had a tough time saying no to a show. This weekend, though, was the first time all summer that I've gone to shows on consecutive nights. And both were so radically different, it was almost amusing.

On Friday, I went to Kings of Leon at the Greek. I first saw KOL at Coachella this year and was blown away by them: their mid-day set seemed to match the 105 degree temperatures. So when I heard they were coming to the Greek, I signed up right away.

They didn't disappoint. All 6,000 at the Greek were on their feet for their entire set and had tons of energy. It didn't seem like an LA-crowd, prompting the band mention this between songs. But I think a lot of that had to do with the Kings' performance: they just fucking rocked. I mean, straight up, loud, fast rock and roll. It was the perfect way to end the week.

There's still a few performances from the show stuck in my head: "Taper Jean Girl," "Trani," but most of all, "Slow Night, So Long."

And "Slow Night, So Long," is what I said after seeing Hall & Oates last night at the Hollywood Bowl.

Now, let me clarify something: I did not purchase tickets to see "Hall & Oates" months in advance. After the Kings of Leon show, Blake mentioned that he got some $9 tickets to Hall & Oates at the Bowl, thinking it would be an amusing show. He had an extra ticket, so I figured for $9, it wouldn't be too bad.

Whereas Kings of Leon were 1 1/2 hours of pure energy and rock, Hall & Oates were 1 1/2 hours of easy listening and slight boredom. Sure, I enjoyed hearing "Meaneater," "Sara Smile," and "I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)," but in order to get to those hits, we had to sit through a bunch of new, crappier material. I don't mean to be harsh, but I go to a show like that to hear all the greatest hits. I don't want to hear your new cover of "What's Going On?" As we walked out of the show, a lot of the crowd seemed to be complaining that they didn't play "Private Eyes" and a few other huge hits.

The band sounded fine and Darryl Hall's voice still sounds great (although Oates is looking a little pulled back and creepy), but the show was pure cheese. The stage banter was amusing ("This next one's a song about getting off the road. It's about simple things in a complex world") and Hall seemed to be more into fussing with his hair than singing. Oh yeah, and at one point, there was a flute solo. A fucking flute solo at a "rock" concert.

Trust me, I had fun and knew from moment one that it would be a silly, cheese-fest of 80's music. But one night after seeing something really kick-ass, really made the night suffer in comparison. If the crowd at the Hall & Oates show had been at the Greek Theater a night earlier, they would've been booing Hall & Oates off the stage and chanting for Kings Of Leon to come out and rock their asses off.

PS: Oh yeah, one other thing: there was a large catfight/near-brawl after the Kings of Leon show. Four girls yelling and pulling hair and their boyfriends shoving each other and putting each other in headlocks, nearly coming to blows. That was awesome. There was nothing that cool at the Hall & Oates show.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

America's Got Talent

I saw this on laist today and had to share. This is the first time I've ever heard the words, "A vocal, ventriloquist, clog act," said in the same sentence. And make sure to watch when they stop down for technical difficulties:



That's a whole lot of creepy.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Pa-Pa-Pants Man is NOT CLEAR!

I don't know how to set this one up, other than stick through with it. It gets weirder (and better) as it goes along:



Oh, and this one is also from Japan, but it's a totally weird game show. I saw a clip of this on CNN the other day:

Mistaken Identity

My phone bleeped and buzzed last night around 11pm. It was a text from my sister. It read, "Stu, ya jerk!" I had no idea what it meant and assumed it was a mistake - a text she meant to send to someone else. So, I sent back a confused, "What?"

"Whatever, Stu," she replied. I was thrown for a loss.

Then, John, my brother-in-law called me. Before I even said hello, he said, "I have to apologize for the texts..." Apparently, pictures of their dog, Winston, had been posted as a "dog of the day" on luvmutt.com.

Someone, named "Stu" made this sarcastic comment:

"I hope Winston hasn't been neutered, because this page proves he's the last hope to carry on the family line."

Both Erin and John assumed it was me cracking a joke, and John retaliated by posting the following comments on my last blog post:

At 8/27/2007 11:22 PM, Anonymous said...

This blog is so lame. I sure hope whoever writes this crap doesn't quit his dayjob as an accountant or something...
(Ed. Note: John is an accountant. Insert your own joke here.)

At 8/27/2007 11:28 PM, Stu said...

hey everybody, my blog is so cool...what happens if i move? live from mount pleasant ave?
(Ed. note: Mt. Pleasant Ave. was the first street I lived on)

The only problem: I wasn't the guy who posted as "Stu." I hadn't been home all night. Apparently, John forgot he sent the link to a friend whose last name is "Stewart" and goes by "Stu." And I guess this "Stu" also cracks jokes.

John asked me to delete the comments that he wrote on this blog as a response. I did. He felt really bad. But I never promised that I wouldn't post them.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Now That's Just Smart

I've been a bit busy lately to sit and write anything, so instead, I'll just post this video of Miss Teen South Carolina sounding brilliant. So brilliant, in fact, that I can't even understand how she got from point A to point B:

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Aww, Nuts!

Someone at the office just sent me a link to a video of a crazy game show from Japan (What other kind is there?) It is worth seeing:



And it reminded me of the end of this old SNL sketch where Chris Farley ends up in the crazy game show in Japan. If you haven't seen it, you'll know what I mean when you get to 5:50 in the video:

Earthquake?




I was deep asleep last night, when I woke up to our apartment shaking and moving. Heather asked me, "Is that the cat?"

"No," I said. "The cat can't make earthquakes."

I then shrugged off the moment and went back to sleep.

(Editor's note: the exchange between Heather and I was slightly re-written for humor purposes)

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Saturday Silliness: Jailhouse Thriller

I saw this video on a few different sites and figured I'd share it. It's the inmates at the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center in the Philippines performing the dance routine from Thriller. Don't believe me? Click play:

Monday, July 16, 2007

Horny Potter

As I was sitting in the theater, watching the latest Harry Potter, all I could think about was Daniel Radcliffe's appearance on the 2nd season of "Extras," which is brilliant in so many ways. Radcliffe played himself and was trying his best to seem much older than he was. These are the two scenes that kept popping in my head during the movie.





In the movie, as "Harry Potter" was kissing a girl, all I could think of was him saying, "I've been with a girl, intercourse-wise."

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Saturday Silliness: Will It Blend?

Back in the 80's, David Letterman gained a lot of popularity for crushing things under steamrollers and throwing things off of buildings. Every once in a while, he'll throw some stuff off the Ed Sullivan Theater roof and it'll make a nice crash, but he doesn't do it nearly as much as he did back at NBC. Letterman's old-school ideal was: Break stuff and make it look cool.

Well, today, I stumbled onto videos on youtube that reminded me of the old-school Letterman. It's called:

And it is exactly what you'd expect. Put things into a blender and see what happens. Now, watch host Tom Dickson blend away:

iPhone:


Glow Sticks:


Golf Club:


Hockey Pucks:


Baseball:


And for first person perspective, a working video camera:


There's a bunch of these on youtube. I hope that one day, I too, can blend things and put them on youtube.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Happy 10th Birthday, OK Computer

Ten years ago, this summer, I was living at my parents' house in Charlotte, NC, waiting to start senior year of college, and working a part-time gig at Blockbuster. I also was in a phase where I was watching way too much MTV, but this was pre-"My Super Sweet 16"-era MTV, when they were still a music based network with only a few reality shows (not that I'm complaining - those shows keep many of us employed - but I do miss music videos).

Anyway, one day, I was watching and I caught this video just after it started:

I was totally freaked out: crazy fucking video, insane song, haunting vocals. Before the ending credits came on, I knew it was Radiohead. I had "Pablo Honey," but the whole album was a bit mediocre, and friends of mine had "The Bends," but I hadn't listened to it. Can't say I was a huge fan at that point.

As soon as the video for "Paranoid Android" ended, I wanted to hear it again, and again, and again, and again. But I had to wait. Radiohead's new album, "OK Computer," wasn't coming out for another two weeks. I kept watching MTV, hoping just to catch a glimpse of that video, and I did here and there. But it wasn't enough. Finally, the day arrived and "OK Computer" came out. I really was just wanted to play "Paranoid Android" over and over again.

So during a break at work, I wandered from Blockbuster to Ernie's Records, a small, family-owned record store around the corner in the same strip mall. I used to go in there a lot whenever I was home from college. Not just for the music, but because my sister worked there and could hook me up with discounts. I had to dig around Ernie's for "OK Computer" because it wasn't a "big" enough band to justify space on the "New Arrivals" shelf. I kinda felt like I had a secret treasure in my hand.

That night, I was on the late shift and was part of the closing crew at work. For closing, you had to straighten up and clean the store for the next morning. And to keep us entertained, every night, we'd either put on a movie or a CD and blast it through the store's sound system. I asked if my co-workers minded if I played my new Radiohead CD. No one had heard of them, but they didn't seem to mind. I popped it in and turned up the volume:

As the opening strains of "Airbag" blared out of our system, my coworkers all turned and looked at me like I was crazy: "What the fuck is this shit?" But right away, I knew it was something great. We kept the CD on for a the cleaning, but I missed half of it because I had to vacuum the front of the store.

I rushed home and put it in my CD player and put on my headphones and listened and listened and listened. I don't think it left my CD player that entire summer. I would often sit outside, during the humid Carolina nights, listening to the CD, drinking a beer, and reading Donna Tartt's "The Secret History," a book that seemed to fit the spooky vibe of "OK Computer" perfectly.

It was my summer record, and it carried over into senior year. I don't think my girlfriend at that time was a big fan of it. Yet I always insisted that it was good for her to listen to, mainly because I felt she needed to expand her musical tastes beyond James Taylor, Phish, and Dave Matthews. I don't think it worked (although I do take pride in getting her into Lou Reed's 1989 classic song, "Dirty Blvd," but that's another story for another day.)

Blake and I were talking about "OK Computer's" tenth anniversary sneaking up on us. It's still an amazing record and holds up as well as it did ten years ago. It's easily my favorite record of the 90's...yes, better than Nirvana's "Nevermind." (I love "Nevermind," but this had more of an impact on me, and, it didn't bring about as many crappy clone bands like Seven Mary Three or Candlebox. Thanks for that crap, Nirvana!)

For Radiohead, it's seen as their burden. Everything they do will always be compared to it, fairly or not. But for me, it's really just a great record, that I can listen to at any time. It does take me back to that summer of '97. There was a sense, back then, that the record was something special, but that not enough people knew about it. I'm glad that ten year later, it's still special, but not just to me - to a lot of other people too.

A little bonus for those who like the album:

You can find a really cool tribute to the album at Stereogum, who actually got a number of artists to cover the album and write about their songs. Plus, you can download it for free. Some covers are better than overs, but it's free, so stop whining.

And hypeful.com has put together this compilation of covers they had.

Who Needs The Kwik-E-Mart?

To quote Apu, "I DOOOOOOOOO!"

Yesterday, Patry, myself, and our co-worker, Frank, went over to the 7-11-turned-Kwik-E-Mart in Burbank. It's a promotion for "The Simpsons Movie," and they did a really damn good job with it. They obviously put a lot of thought into it. It's been extremely popular and the lines have been out the door. We waited between 5-10 minutes to get in, but it was worth it. What else were we going to do on lunch break? So, here's some photos...


Lots of cool signs:
This was on the side of the building:

There were all sorts of small things inside, too:
And of course, the pink donuts:

We each got boxes of four and shared with people. They were amazingly good.


We loaded up on Squishees, which were just Slurpees in a Squishee cup. I did have a sugar rush for a while.
And there's Simpsons characters everywhere:


A little display from some of the artists on the Simpsons:
And of course, Comic Book Guy leaves happily with nachos and comic.In honor of the Kwik-E-Mart, here's some classic videos:








Thank you, come again!